"I'll be voting for he"

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"Colin Powell endorses Barack Obama for president", CBS News 10/25/2012:

With 12 days to go before the presidential election, Powell publicly endorsed President Obama for re-election on "CBS This Morning" Thursday

"I voted for him in 2008 and I plan to stick with him in 2012 and I'll be voting for he and for Vice President Joe Biden next month."

For some background — including a similar quotation from Mitt Romney, "I like he and Callista" — see "Coordinate object 'he' in the news", 1/3/2012. (And for some further discussion of the grammatical issues, see "Does Julia Gillard know subjects from objects?", 12/19/2006, and "Patterns of prestigious deviance", 10/3/2011.)  But "…voting for he and for Vice President Joe Biden" has extra interest because the pronouns are not, strictly speaking, coordinated.

There do seem to be varieties of English in which coordinated pronouns are always nominative, regardless of the role that the conjunction plays in the higher-level syntax.

Here's another example with for —  "Quad Q&A: Stanford Quarterback Andrew Luck", NYT 2/13/2011:

Q: How much when you’re making the decision that wasn’t the decision, how much of Coach Harbaugh leaving or potentially leaving did that weigh in at all?
A: I think myself and all the other Stanford players figured he was going to do the best for he and his family.

Dave Itzkoff, "Florida Governor Will Seek Pardon for Jim Morrison", NYT 11/16/2010:

Mr. Crist, a Republican-turned-independent who lost his bid for a United States Senate seat in November and whose term as governor expires in January, seemed to side with many Doors fans in explaining his decision to submit Morrison for a pardon. As Morrison’s supporters have long argued, Mr. Crist said no documentary evidence presented at the singer’s trial showed Morrison exposing himself, and expressed regret that Morrison died before he could present his appeal. (Mr. Crist also noted that both he and Morrison attended Florida State University.)

“It just creates a lot of empathy, all these circumstances that add up,” Mr. Crist [said]. “And my heart bleeds for he and his family that this may not have even ever happened, yet it’s unfortunately currently part of his record.”

Here's an example where the pattern is not in a quotation, but in the text of a (presumably edited) piece — Paul Wisenthal, "The Start-Up as the First Step Up ", NYT 5/11/2006:

Jabious, now 19, said fashion was a natural choice for he and his brother. "We were always interested in fashion and wanted to have our own clothing line," he said "We asked this guy from church to design five shirts. We paid him $100, but soon after realized we could not make a profit."


  1. Paulus said,

    October 25, 2012 @ 12:16 pm

    Presumably, the sequence of events is the following. (1) "Me and my wife own a car." — It should be: "My wife and I own a car." (2) "It's hard for my wife and me." — It should* be: "It's hard for my wife and I." (3) "She likes my wife and me." — It should* be: "She likes my wife and I." (4) "She likes him and his wife." — It should* be: "She likes my wife and he."

    Successively, the politeness/grammatical point in the first-person nominative subject position (1) is extended to prepositions (2), direct objects (3) and pronouns in the third person rather than the first (4). The beauty of descriptivism is that you can sit back and watch the show without any ill feeling.

  2. dw said,

    October 25, 2012 @ 12:34 pm

    Like @Paulus, I think this may be a hypercorrection away from stigmatized usages such as "*Joe Biden and him won the election".

  3. Lazar said,

    October 25, 2012 @ 2:22 pm

    Just yesterday I spotted an example in this piece: "When asked about the dynamic between he and Gov. Romney…" Earlier in the same piece, however, we see "…President Barack Obama said that the tightening of the race between him and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney doesn’t surprise him."

  4. GeorgeW said,

    October 25, 2012 @ 2:49 pm

    What is it about coordination that changes the case of pronouns (both accusative > nominative and nominative > accusative)?

  5. Henning Makholm said,

    October 25, 2012 @ 3:40 pm

    @GeorgeW: I think the overarching theme is that since English has lost case distinctions in everything but pronouns, the sense of the remaining case distinction as something that encodes the pronoun's role in the large-scale structure of the clause is disappearing too. Instead children who learn the language are decoding the "he/him" difference as being about the pronoun's immediate surroundings in the parse tree of the sentence. This does explain the traditional usage in most simple sentences, where the pronoun "belongs directly" to the verb either as a subject or an object — which are clearly different way of belonging to the verb and so can easily select for different forms. When the pronoun is coordinated, it "belongs directly" to the coordinator rather than to the verb that the entire coordination belongs to — it cannot "see" the verb once we interpret the "he"/"him" distinction as being about small-scale immediate surroundings.

    The only remaining question is then which variant to use in the "directly belonging to a coordinator" case. It appears to be Most seem to find the oblique form most natural (perhaps because it is neat and tidy to understand the nominative as a special form used only when the pronoun fills the subject slot directly, and everything else is oblique). This leads to usage that is incorrect according to the older large-scale function of cases, and when parents and teachers explicitly correct this in some cases, the corrections can be internalized as a counter-rule, namely that coordinators always control the nominal case. (Of course, once this "hypercorrected" usage has been introduced it's capable of propagating on its own without those who follow it needing to have acquired it as a hypercorrection themselves).

    No matter the history, it seems clear that both patterns are instances of the coordination breaking the connection between the large-scale position of the pronoun and its form, and something else moving in to take over the decisionmaking in those cases.

  6. G said,

    October 25, 2012 @ 3:46 pm

    I could have sworn there was a LL rant complaining about the ridicule heaped upon some hapless speaker for "not knowing the difference between subject and object" in a similar situation. The LanguageLogger argued that clearly the speaker did know the difference, as she used it correctly in other sentences (implying that there was no error to ridicule).

    I would agree with other commenters that it's probably a hypercorrection. My subjective impression is that it's a fairly common one; among other places, I notice it in a lot of TV shows (frequently on 'The Good Wife,' for example).

  7. AndrewD said,

    October 25, 2012 @ 3:51 pm

    Whilst Powell's phrase does seem odd, "He and his family" is a common form in English english. I wonder if it is from Powell's Jamaican roots?

  8. Henning Makholm said,

    October 25, 2012 @ 4:07 pm

    @AndrewD: There's nothing odd about "he and his family" in itself — tough many may feel it belongs in a fairly literate register because in their everyday speech coordinated pronouns are always oblique.

    What's noteworthy here is that this phrase appears as the complement of a preposition, in which context the norm (both literate and in everyday speech) would usually be "him and his family".

  9. CherylT said,

    October 25, 2012 @ 4:58 pm

    Many years ago, when I worked in the classified ads section of a local newspaper, I queried whether a headline along the lines of 'Interested in you and your family's health?' shouldn't be 'your and your family's health'. No one else could see the point.

  10. Jerry Friedman said,

    October 25, 2012 @ 5:04 pm

    I agree that this probably started as hypercorrection (though I know of no evidence), but sometimes the correction is applied only where it's non-standard, as here.

    "Me and downtown don't mix so well."

    "Me and him just click."

    "This could hopefully open the doors to taking photos for he and his family…"

    This wasn't easy to find. Examples of the construction MYL posted about are a bit easier:

    "I thought we had a great game plan throwing the ball for he and for Kasen…" Link.

    "I am immensely sad for he and for anyone who feels alone and who feels that they cannot reach out for help." Link.

  11. Nathan said,

    October 25, 2012 @ 6:22 pm

    @CherylT: I've been told that in modern English, the possessive 's is actually a "phrasal clitic", so in your example it would turn "you and your family" into "you and your family's".

  12. The Ridger said,

    October 25, 2012 @ 6:50 pm

    Lots of people immediately say "hypercorrection" but I don't see it. Hypercorrection would have you say "for he", but this really almost always occurs in conjoined phrases. I believe the phrase is simply being treated as the element, and since one part of it wouldn't decline, neither does the other. The fact that only some pronouns decline in the first place reinforces this notion.

  13. Ted said,

    October 25, 2012 @ 7:27 pm

    @G: Here you go:

  14. Nick said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 1:15 am

    Not to upset the nominative/undeclinable-conjoined-phrase applecart, but "her and her husband moved" gets 8700 ghits.

    I first heard it said by a sportscaster two years ago.

  15. CherylT said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 1:55 am

    @Nathan: that could well be the process for "you and your family's". I've never felt quite sure that "your and your family's" would sound natural in informal speech. Could there also be a conflict between perceived sentence and phrase position that would apply to examples like these?

  16. mollymooly said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 4:44 am

    [the king of Spain]'s daughter the king of [Spain's daughter]
    *[the king's of Spain] daughter
    *the king's daughter of Spain

    [you and your family]'s health
    [[your] and [your family's]] health
    I've also seen
    "yours and your family's health"
    which might be a reversal of
    [your family's health] and [yours]

  17. Brian T said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 7:44 am

    Here's my favorite real-life example of this kind of carry-over. I was listening to a guy in my church talking about gay issues. He said several things like "Many gay or lesbian people believe this" and "Some gay or lesbian people have experienced that." But then he continued, "As a gay or lesbian person myself …."

  18. Elnor Horne said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 2:19 pm

    I've been noting this construction for many years now without disquiet. But I don't know how to account for this kind: "Me and him both like to sing." Maybe the rule for these coordinates is just to interchange nominative and accusative??

  19. Jerry Friedman said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 11:17 pm

    @Nick: I'm surprised by your saying your first heard "Her and her husband" two years ago. I grew up with that, though I heard it more with "Me" as the first word. I don't see how the existence of such constructions upsets any applecarts. The people who see "for he and I" as a hypercorrection take it to come from the correction of "Me and him are…", but the correction certainly didn't work on everybody.

    @Elnor Horne: There are probably people who always use nominative (or whatever you call it) with "and", people who always use accusative, people who use the two forms in the standard way, and people who use both in the non-standard way. It's hard to find examples of the last possibility, the interchange, but I linked to one in my comment above.

    Maybe a lot of people sometimes use nominative and sometimes use accusative in the same situation, depending on register or other variables.

  20. Lazar said,

    October 26, 2012 @ 11:39 pm

    In light of some of the previous comments, I prefer to use the terms subjective, objective and possessive for English rather than nominative, accusative, genitive. The fact that possession is indicated by a clitic at the end of a noun phrase seems to undermine the idea that it's equivalent to a true genitive case, and the fact that the "accusative" is totally indistinguishable from dative and post-prepositional usages makes the term accusative seem inapt.

  21. LDavidH said,

    October 27, 2012 @ 3:22 am

    @mollymooly (and others on the subject of the genitive s): In my mother tongue Swedish, which also uses an -s to indicate possession, we were always taught in school that the correct form was "the king's of Spain daughter" (kungens av Spanien dotter), since she's the daughter of the king, not of Spain. AFAIK, nobody ever actually uses that construction, it sounds too weird, so you find a way of rewriting the phrase. But I still find "the Queen of England's dogs" a rather amusing concept (although I imagine that she is not amused…)!

  22. G said,

    October 27, 2012 @ 5:37 am

    @Ted: Thanks! I thought I was going crazy when I couldn't find it; 2006 was much further back than I thought to look.

    I find Pullum's take on the issue decidedly odd, but since comments are not welcome, I'll keep them to myself.

  23. M F said,

    October 27, 2012 @ 5:45 am

    @LDavidH, that's fairly curious to me. I'm a native Dane, and we absolutely put the genitive s at the end of the entire noun phrase. "I stole the man who I met yesterday while drinking a beer's hat."

    (Jeg stjal manden jeg mødte i går mens jeg drak en øls hat)

    This is obviously as ambiguous as the Queen of England's dogs, but goes to show that

    At least according to Swedish Wikipedia, "Detta beror på, att man ofta i modern svenska sätter ut genitivändelsen -s på det sista ordet i en nominalfras, i stället för på huvudordet."

    "This (that there is no genitive case in Modern Swedish) relies on the fact that you often in modern swedish put the genitive ending -s on the final word in a noun phrase instead of on the main word."

    It seems there was an actual genitive case in Swedish previously, in which the s indeed went on the noun, but not anymore.

    (To be a bit pedantic, you actually put the s as a determiner of the possessee where it cliticises unto the end of the preceding phrase)

  24. LDavidH said,

    October 27, 2012 @ 7:41 am

    @G: what's odd about Pullum's position? It seems quite clear and linguistically sound; especially as he doesn't even say whether the usage "… and I" in an object phrase is wrong or not, only that a lot of people say it.

  25. Nick said,

    October 27, 2012 @ 1:56 pm

    @Jerry Friedman: you're absolutely right. Now that you point it out, I'm at least as surprised as you. As a kid among friends, I would certainly say something like "Me and him went to the park" in preference to the approved way. Not sure how I managed to overlook that now-obvious connection for two years.

  26. G said,

    October 27, 2012 @ 5:26 pm

    @LDavidH: Well, the brief version is that I think Pullum is unreasonable in his reading of Pearson's sentence, by focusing on "she can't tell the difference between the subject and the object of a sentence" and ignoring "when to use I and me."

    I would argue that "can't tell the difference between X and Y" is a common rhetorical figure to express that someone uses X and Y wrong, and that disproving the literal meaning is to miss the point. I would also argue that while Pearson may be imprecise in his analysis and terminology (writing, of course, for a general audience), this neither obscures nor invalidates his point: that Gillard used the subjective pronoun "I" in contexts where the rules of grammar assumed or preferred by Pearson would prescribe "me."

    The merits of that position may be debatable, but Pullum puts it "off the agenda." This focus on quibbling rather than on the substance of the disagreement was what I found "decidedly odd." Though on rereading more closely, the motivation becomes a good deal clearer.

  27. Richard Wein said,

    November 5, 2012 @ 8:19 am

    @Henning Makholm. That's a very good analysis IMO.

    My impression is that such nominative pronoun uses (where we would traditionally expect accusative) are far more common in association with "and" than in association with other connectors, like "or". This suggests to me that the word "and" is playing a large role in motivating such usages.

    BTW A couple of years ago I heard "between he and she" in a BBC radio dramatisation of The Mayor of Casterbridge. Needless to say, that bit of dialogue wasn't taken from Hardy!

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